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  1. #1

    Default Does Superman NEED to be Clark Kent Anymore?

    I was watching Man of Steel recently and I found myself asking this question more than once. I think it's a relevant question to ask, given the evolution of Superman over the past two decades. And I think the recent events of Truth have finally begun to address it, albeit it in a limited manner.

    One of my favorite parts in Man of Steel was the early scenes showing Clark just living as a nomad, working odd jobs and never really establishing himself in one job or one place. I think that made him feel like a genuine outsider, which is exactly what he is. He's an alien. And even among other humans, those different from others often live on the outside looking in. I think on some levels, that's the best possible state for Superman to be in. The movie showed how he could help people just living as a nomad. There's nothing about that life that would've kept him from saving the world from Zod or any threat for that matter. I think him being Clark Kent, mild mannered reporter, is somewhat unnecessary now.

    I know it's an iconic part of Superman's character, having a secret identity and a career within that identity. But I think it's less pragmatic now than it was years ago and I don't just say this because phone booths are extinct and cell phone cameras are everywhere. I say this because for most of his history, being a reporter had a pragmatic purpose for Superman. It allowed him to keep up with ongoing events in the world, which gave him the opportunities he was looking for to help people. But that world is no more. Now anyone with a cell phone and a Twitter feed can keep up with the major events of the world. Clark doesn't need to be a reporter or worry about concealing his identity, which has always been somewhat of a joke considering his lack of a mask.

    I get that being a reporter has been part of Superman's identity for years. However, I think the way he's been going about it is dated. I sincerely hope that the effects of the Truth arc will explore this, especially after he gets his powers back. I really don't want to see DC try and revert everything back to the way it used to be because that way is just not pragmatic anymore. If instead Superman became more like a drifter, working odd jobs and saving the world whenever a crisis arose, that would make him a better character overall. But that's just my opinion. I'd like to open it up for discussion.
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  2. #2
    Extraordinary Member Last Son of Krypton's Avatar
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    At the moment, a Superman without his secret identity seems to work only in elsewords stories.
    Mostly due to tradition, the bespectacled Clark Kent will never really go away, at least until, in our society, glasses will not be extinct as the phone booths.

  3. #3
    Ultimate Member Ascended's Avatar
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    I think you need Clark Kent. The dynamic between Superman and Clark Kent is one of the most unique and compelling aspects to the mythos. Without it, you end up with a less douche-y Mr. Majestic.

    What makes the dynamic great is how they play off each other. Clark Kent is Superman's attempt to understand and pretend to be human. Superman is Clark's attempt to pretend to be a god. The "real" person is somewhere in between. If you take that out, you lose a lot of the nuance and depth the character has. Now, that would make him easier for some writers to understand. And some fans, for whom that nuance goes over their heads, might get behind the change, but it would take away one of the core aspects of the franchise.

    It can be done. It can be done well, and in some versions I'd agree that the secret identity doesnt have to be included (Man of Steel, Red Sun,) but overall? Superman needs Clark Kent.
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  4. #4
    Ultimate Member Ascended's Avatar
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    I do agree with the OP however, that the Clark disguise needs a serious update and overhaul.

    Being a reporter in order to keep up with emergencies that needed Superman's attention hasn't worked since the late Golden Age, early Silver Age, when his powers increased. And there are a number of other issues with the secret identity that need to be addressed. But updating the concept of Clark Kent is one thing, removing it completely is quite another.
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  5. #5
    Extraordinary Member Zero Hunter's Avatar
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    I think any character needs a way to be shown living a normal life to really connect to readers. If they are always just the costume it get boring to me. Look at Captain America and how he really has no life anymore outside of being Captain America.

  6. #6
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    What the OP describes might be an interesting character--I can think of several characters from the past that had that story as their central concept--the question is whether that concept is Superman.

    Of course, these days, rather than introducing new characters with new names, DC simply takes an existing character and attaches a new concept to that character. So I guess this can be done with Superman. And if the whole weirdness of Superman/Clark Kent is going to be abandoned, then another DC character or another publisher can probably pick it up and run with it. All's fair in love and star wars.

    But this condition where characters are like costumes you put on a Captain Action doll seems foreign to me. I'd rather stick with characters who own their concepts and will live and die by them. If the Superman concept doesn't work anymore, then I'd rather see it become defunct and then whatever new concepts would have their own names and their own trademarks. But I can see where that isn't going to happen at DC and there's a monetary reason for switching out different character types on the same doll.
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  7. #7
    AT EASE, LOO-SUH! Superlad93's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ascended View Post
    I do agree with the OP however, that the Clark disguise needs a serious update and overhaul.

    Being a reporter in order to keep up with emergencies that needed Superman's attention hasn't worked since the late Golden Age, early Silver Age, when his powers increased. And there are a number of other issues with the secret identity that need to be addressed. But updating the concept of Clark Kent is one thing, removing it completely is quite another.
    This is why I think Superman/Clark should just be a reporter/writer because that's his passion. He probably hopes to get a book deal someday.

  8. #8
    Ultimate Member Ascended's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Superlad93 View Post
    This is why I think Superman/Clark should just be a reporter/writer because that's his passion. He probably hopes to get a book deal someday.
    Ever since Clark wrote that fiction novel back in post-Crisis (somewhere between his resurrection and the end of the Triangle Era) I've thought that should be his thing.

    Let Clark Kent be a novelist who still writes a fist-full of articles a year for the Planet as a freelance or part-time reporter. He can write articles that expose corruption and shed light on social injustices, ushering in real, lasting change, and also write novels that inspire people and spark the imagination. He can still swing by the Planet and see Perry, Ron, Cat, and the rest of the Planet staff (he still works there after all) but if he doesnt show up for staff meetings no one bats an eye or questions it. It retains just about all of the trappings of his supporting cast and the purpose Clark serves in the narrative, without the restrictions.

    Clark loves writing. And he loves the power that reporting has; its ability to change the world (just look at Watergate) in ways even Superman cant. But having to punch a clock every day means finding increasingly silly excuses for his (often long) absences.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by MarvelMaster616 View Post
    I was watching Man of Steel recently and I found myself asking this question more than once. I think it's a relevant question to ask, given the evolution of Superman over the past two decades. And I think the recent events of Truth have finally begun to address it, albeit it in a limited manner.

    One of my favorite parts in Man of Steel was the early scenes showing Clark just living as a nomad, working odd jobs and never really establishing himself in one job or one place. I think that made him feel like a genuine outsider, which is exactly what he is. He's an alien. And even among other humans, those different from others often live on the outside looking in. I think on some levels, that's the best possible state for Superman to be in. The movie showed how he could help people just living as a nomad. There's nothing about that life that would've kept him from saving the world from Zod or any threat for that matter. I think him being Clark Kent, mild mannered reporter, is somewhat unnecessary now.

    I know it's an iconic part of Superman's character, having a secret identity and a career within that identity. But I think it's less pragmatic now than it was years ago and I don't just say this because phone booths are extinct and cell phone cameras are everywhere. I say this because for most of his history, being a reporter had a pragmatic purpose for Superman. It allowed him to keep up with ongoing events in the world, which gave him the opportunities he was looking for to help people. But that world is no more. Now anyone with a cell phone and a Twitter feed can keep up with the major events of the world. Clark doesn't need to be a reporter or worry about concealing his identity, which has always been somewhat of a joke considering his lack of a mask.

    I get that being a reporter has been part of Superman's identity for years. However, I think the way he's been going about it is dated. I sincerely hope that the effects of the Truth arc will explore this, especially after he gets his powers back. I really don't want to see DC try and revert everything back to the way it used to be because that way is just not pragmatic anymore. If instead Superman became more like a drifter, working odd jobs and saving the world whenever a crisis arose, that would make him a better character overall. But that's just my opinion. I'd like to open it up for discussion.
    The first problem is that you watched that abomination made by people who don't even like the character enough to feature his name in the film without some sort of joke or derisive context.

    Clark Kent is essential to the Superman mythos, but more to your question, Clark Kent does, in fact, need to be Clark Kent. Not only is he Clark Kent initially (and perhaps primarily) he also needs the life of Clark Kent to escape to. Without it, we have a full-time Superman that's not terribly interesting, human, or relatable.

  10. #10
    Astonishing Member JackDaw's Avatar
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    Going back to basics.

    Of course, you can have an hero with powers that doesn't have a secret identity. Or you can have a hero with a secret identity and powers who doesn't have enough love and respect for the parents who raised him to make it inevitable that his secret identity is based on their names and values.

    And..if you own the appropriate character brand...you can call that character Superman. But it wouldn't be any Superman that I cared to read!
    Last edited by JackDaw; 01-07-2016 at 11:55 PM.

  11. #11
    Mighty Member manduck37's Avatar
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    I've always thought that Superman needs his Clark Kent identity. He was adopted and raised by the Kents, so being Clark is being true to himself. That doesn't mean he can't or shouldn't explore his Kryptonian heritage. It doesn't mean he can't assume different roles to different people. That's genuinely how people are. We take on different roles in different aspects of our lives. So being Clark makes Superman a bit more relatable. Being Clark isn't some kind of tribute to the Kents, unless all of us living our lives is some kind of tribute to our parents. He is Clark Kent, just like he is Kal-El and Superman. It would strike me as a little odd and kind of cold if the Clark side of Superman wasn't genuine on some level. Like being human or part of an adopted family wasn't important to him. I think it's an important part of why Superman cares for humanity so much. While he may be an alien, he grew up human. So it's natural he would connect with people on a human level. Plus it's human values that give him his moral center.

    The other reason I think the Clark identity is important goes back to an inspirational aspect of the character from his creators. The idea that behind ever mild mannered, shy person there could be a Superman. Taking away the secret aspect of his identity kind of diminishes that idea. If a regular, kind of nerdy guy like Clark could turn out to be Superman then there could be something super about anyone. I'd hate to loose that idea.

    It seems to me that our modern, Nu52 Superman doesn't see himself as different people. There doesn't seem to be a "Clark is the mask" or "Superman is the mask" dichotomy going on. It's just different sides of himself, all of which are the real him. The idea of his identity being outed in Truth could have been a way to really explore this concept. Though Truth seems full of wasted potential.

  12. #12
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    It's the way the OP has posed the topic question that influences how I approach this topic: Does Superman NEED to be Clark Kent Anymore?

    The way I read it, we're assuming Superman has been Clark Kent in this continuity (otherwise there would be no need to say Anymore) and he no longer has the emotional need to be Clark. He's worked that out of his system and he's now willing to be Superman round the clock.

    This could be my misreading of the topic. Maybe looking at it from inside the fiction is wrong. The question might be does DC need Superman to be Clark Kent anymore? Which would be a question outside the fiction and in terms of the entertainment industry. Perhaps DC can get away with a version of Superman that abandons the Clark Kent concept and this would be a popular entertainment property. So then the question is whether DC could make money from that concept.
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  13. #13
    Formerly NotSuper Persona J's Avatar
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    Years ago I probably would have said "yes, he does need to be Clark Kent," and while I do think that he needs to have BEEN Clark Kent (both as a child/teen and Clark Kent, Reporter), I don't think it needs to be his status quo any more.

    I think the concept of Kal having lost the Clark Kent identity (which should be presented as a tragedy in its own right, something akin to Miracleman making a headstone for his alter ego before transforming for the final time) and having to find a different way to interact with humans (and super-humans) opens up more possibilities than it closes. One could always revisit past stories of Reporter Clark Kent, maybe even having Superman himself reminisce about the simpler days. Superman could spend more time in space, becoming a galactic hero as much as a terrestrial one, not needing excuses to justify long spans of time away to Clark's civilian friends and colleagues, and he could still write, both through pen names so no one knows it's Superman, as well as himself. He could be a super-powered Doc Savage, having every kind of adventure imaginable, unbound by civilian life. And as for Superman needing time to "relax," he still could, either lightly disguised on Earth, or chatting with aliens on another planet (I imagine a cosmopolitan galactic city-state where aliens of many different races all live, in a pluralistic culture, where each had their had customs but also had shared values as a city-state), who don't care he's Superman or an alien. Even just writing this makes new ideas come to me, you could really do much more and still have him recognizably being Superman. And for people who still dig the secret ID, there would be other worlds and characters, since DC seems willing to bring those alternate Supermen to the forefront rather than hide them away in the toy box--there's even a married Lois and Clark in the main universe(!), and that version of Superman could make a Clark-like public persona--the possibilities are endless.

    Believe it or not, I didn't intend to make this reply as supportive of the "no secret ID" as it sounds, but as I was writing it I started to get into the idea more and more.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by NotSuper View Post
    Years ago I probably would have said "yes, he does need to be Clark Kent," and while I do think that he needs to have BEEN Clark Kent (both as a child/teen and Clark Kent, Reporter), I don't think it needs to be his status quo any more.

    I think the concept of Kal having lost the Clark Kent identity (which should be presented as a tragedy in its own right, something akin to Miracleman making a headstone for his alter ego before transforming for the final time) and having to find a different way to interact with humans (and super-humans) opens up more possibilities than it closes. One could always revisit past stories of Reporter Clark Kent, maybe even having Superman himself reminisce about the simpler days. Superman could spend more time in space, becoming a galactic hero as much as a terrestrial one, not needing excuses to justify long spans of time away to Clark's civilian friends and colleagues, and he could still write, both through pen names so no one knows it's Superman, as well as himself. He could be a super-powered Doc Savage, having every kind of adventure imaginable, unbound by civilian life. And as for Superman needing time to "relax," he still could, either lightly disguised on Earth, or chatting with aliens on another planet (I imagine a cosmopolitan galactic city-state where aliens of many different races all live, in a pluralistic culture, where each had their had customs but also had shared values as a city-state), who don't care he's Superman or an alien. Even just writing this makes new ideas come to me, you could really do much more and still have him recognizably being Superman. And for people who still dig the secret ID, there would be other worlds and characters, since DC seems willing to bring those alternate Supermen to the forefront rather than hide them away in the toy box--there's even a married Lois and Clark in the main universe(!), and that version of Superman could make a Clark-like public persona--the possibilities are endless.

    Believe it or not, I didn't intend to make this reply as supportive of the "no secret ID" as it sounds, but as I was writing it I started to get into the idea more and more.
    I get this argument. It makes sense for those of us that are long-time readers: give us something new. However, I'm not sure it's good for the Superman brand, because we long time consumers are few and waning. Those elements that made Superman and the superhero genre in general popular should probably be preserved, unless we're going to keep up the reboot-these-guys-every-decade thing.

  15. #15
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    I think Superman has assumed other identities from time to time. It makes sense to me that he would maybe maintain a few different personas around the world. He probably has it written into his contract as Clark that he gets enough time off during the year to do other things and then he goes off to other countries and other planets and lives other lives. That would be the kind of thing I'd expect Elliot Maggin to put in one of his stories--maybe he did.
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